The Boy Scouts of America announced Friday a proposal to allow gay youths to join the program, a move that, if approved, would mark a dramatic shift for one of the nation's oldest and most traditional youth organizations.
But the proposal would continue to bar homosexual men from serving as Scout leaders. It will be voted on at a May meeting of the organization's national council.
"We believe the BSA can no longer sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, controversial and unresolved societal issue," national president Wayne Perry said in a statement announcing the proposal.
The proposed resolution states, "No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone." The proposal comes after months of intense pressure from both within and outside the organization.
But the ban retained strong backing among important Scouting constituencies, including the Southern Baptist Convention and conservative groups such as the Family Research Council.
"The policy is incoherent," said Tony Perkins, president of the council. "The proposal says, in essence, that homosexuality is morally acceptable until a boy turns 18 -- then, when he comes of age, he's removed from the Scouts."
Gay-rights groups, which had demanded a complete lifting of the ban, criticized the proposal as inadequate.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, asked: "What message does this resolution send to the gay Eagle Scout who, as an adult, wants to continue a lifetime of Scouting by becoming a troop leader?"